Crime, Culture, and Chicane Lanes: The Hidden History of Michigan Pinball

Geoffrey V. Carter
Saginaw Valley State University

In pinball parlance, a chicane lane describes the curving, zig-zagging path that slows the silverball down and lights features that earn points as the ball passes through it. In my video, I use the chicane lane as a visual metaphor to explore the hidden underbelly of Michigan pinball as it began in East Lansing’s Pinball Pete’s establishment and criss-crossed paths with organized crime that existed in Durand, Flint, and Detroit during the 1970’s. Using archived interviews with Pinball Pete’s founder, Tim Arnold, and connections made to convicted organized crime members like Harry Mahoney (founder of the Déjà Vu Nightclub), this video explores the culture of pinball as it connects to the culture of crime. Outlawed in many cities until the mid-1970’s, pinball and its culture was no stranger to a general association with sex, crime, and gambling, not only in terms of its bagatell gameplay but its racy imagery. Untold in previous stories is how an actual syndicate touched one of East Lansing’s more iconic locations, Pinball Pete's.